Chapter 60 : Unprecedented Complications
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Inwardly, he cursed the dark wizard for tainting what should have been a joyous occasion with the sour taste of fear and dread. He pulled Lily to him and hugged her. "Lil, you're sure?"
She nodded against his shoulder. "Hell, Sev, of course I am. If that bastard hadn't come up with his bloody proposal I'd be celebrating with a glass of fake champagne instead of bawling on your shoulder." She sniffled, feeling torn between laughing and sobbing. "Damn him to hell, Severus! I want this baby, God knows I do, but . . . I'm afraid. I don't want him to get his slimy hands on our child. I'd die before I let that happen!"
"Hush." His hands tangled in her fiery hair and he began to run his fingers through it rhythmically, trying to soothe her. "No one's dying today, little oracle. He needn't know about the baby. Now or ever."
"How will we keep it a secret? Glamour will only stretch so far, even when cast by a mistress of Charms," Lily said tightly, her fingers gripping his shoulders firmly, some of her initial panic beginning to abate.
Severus conjured a robe for her and wrapped her in it, though he didn't mind seeing his wife naked, he knew that now was not the time for any sort of lovemaking. Not yet. He inhaled her scent, she smelled like strawberries and sugar and citrus. He gently coaxed her to come and lie down upon the bed, where he snuggled with her, wrapping his length about her, trying to quiet her rampaging emotions and make her feel safe and loved. "How far along are you?"
"About two months, I think. The baby should be born around July, near the end of the month as near as I can figure. An obstetric witch should be able to tell me more accurately. If I dare to go to one."
"Of course you should." Severus urged. "Pre-natal care is essential."
"I know, but . . . what if they find out?"
"We'll think of something. How long can you cast a Glamour?"
"Three months, tops. Then it starts to shred and requires a good deal of power to renew. But even with the Glamour we could still be discovered, because a pregnant witch's powers triple when they're carrying a baby. My aura will burn like a star gone nova and there will be no way I can mask that."
"Damn! Forgot about that," Severus swore. He kissed the top of her head. "We'll think of something. I won't let anyone hurt you or the baby. I'll blow my cover before I'll let anything happen to either of you."
Lily went pale. "No! Severus, you mustn't! We need to gather as much information as we can, it's our only hope of defeating him."
Severus gritted his teeth. "Even so, nothing is more important to me than you, Lily. I'll do whatever it takes to make sure you stay safe and our child too."
He was wearing an obdurate look, his features cast in stone, and she sensed it would be futile to argue further. Severus Snape took his duties as protector of their small family very seriously. "Perhaps we could work out a ruse."
"Perhaps I could have an accident, slip and fall or something, and pretend to miscarry. Then I could use the Glamour to disguise myself until the baby's born and that way he won't suspect anything."
"What about your aura?"
"I don't know about that yet. Give me a bloody break, Snape!" she snapped irritably.
He shook his head. "I'm sorry, that was stupid of me."
She put her head on his shoulder, her breath tickling his ear. "No, I'm the one who ought to apologize for being so crabby. Eventually we'll have to face that issue. As well as who to tell the truth to."
"We'll have to tell Arthur," Severus said reluctantly. "You won't be able to hide the morning sickness and all from him after awhile."
"Right. But how do we explain that he can't talk about it to anyone at school?"
"I'll just tell him you're oversensitive and don't want everyone knowing our business."
"Sev, that's lame."
He scowled. "You come up with a better idea, let me know."
Right then her head was throbbing, so that was out of the question. "Who else? Our mothers will guess, so they'll have to know. I'll tell Petunia and Cindy, of course. They'll know why we need to keep it secret."
"Naturally. James will know also."
Severus grimaced. "Before you know it, the whole bloody world will know."
Lily scowled at him. "You have a better idea, let me know."
Severus was silent for a long moment, his clever Slytherin mind trying to come up with a reason why Lily would choose not to be so open about her pregnancy, even around her family. Finally, he said, "What if we told our parents a small white lie? What if we told them that you had miscarried before this child . . . early in the pregnancy, like a few weeks, and you were afraid it could happen again and so you wanted to keep it quiet just in case? Does that sound plausible?"
Lily thought about it. "Yes. Of course Mum will be upset that I didn't come to her the first time, but I can tell her that I wasn't sure if I really was pregnant and I only learned the truth when I went for my exam and the obstetric witch told me so. I really don't like lying to her, but what choice do we have?"
"None. I wish it were otherwise. Trust Old Snake Eyes to pollute even bringing a child into the world, damn his black heart! This should be something we can celebrate, not hide."
"I know. My timing is just terrible," Lily whispered, tears filling her eyes.
"No, it isn't. The bloody Dark Lord's is." He gently kissed her. "Shhh . . .don't cry, sweetling. Don't let him make you regret the best thing in our lives."
"I don't know what's wrong with me," she sniffled and hiccupped, swiping away her tears with the sleeve of her bath robe. "I never cry over stuff like this." She struggled to get control over her runaway emotions.
"It's hormones," her husband muttered, recalling how Eileen also got weepy sometimes over silly things, though this was not silly at all, but deadly serious.
"Oh, now suddenly you're an expert?" she sniped.
He smiled at her. "Hardly. But I remember how Mum was when she was pregnant with Jess. Dad used to say he was never sure what he was going to come home to—a waterfall or a dragon."
"Wonderful. I wonder if there's a potion I can take that will stop these mood swings before they start?"
"I don't know. But I can research it. Or you could just ask my mother."
"Right now all I want to do is sleep for a year," Lily stated, yawning hugely.
"I think I'll join you," her husband agreed, tucking her head beneath his chin. "I love you, Lily. And this baby is a gift, never forget that." His hand moved slowly down her until he touched her flat stomach and then it curled about her protectively.
"I know." She smiled through her tears and placed her hand atop his. "I love you too, Sev." She kissed him lightly on the mouth. "Sweet dreams, my heart." Then she whispered, "And sweet dreams to you too, baby mine."
Her green eyes closed then and she slept, worn out by the meeting and its aftermath.
Severus lay awake for another ten minutes, still pondering the new turn his life had taken and marveling that he was going to be a father. It didn't seem quite real to him yet. He didn't know if he was ready for it, but ready or not, he was going to be one. He felt elated and petrified and fiercely protective all at once. He wondered if this was how Dickon had felt when he had learned Eileen was expecting. He heaved a sigh and finally allowed his eyes to close and he fell asleep listening to Lily's soft breathing.
Two weekends later:
Severus was frying some eggs and bacon on the stove, it was his turn to make breakfast, he decided to let Lily sleep in a little because of her condition, which as yet no one save he knew about. Arthur was sitting at the table, covering a yawn, he had decided to spend this weekend at the cottage instead of up at the castle. He was playing with his napkin, folding it into odd shapes while he waited for the eggs and potatoes and bacon to get done. The delicious odors were making his mouth water uncontrollably.
Just then, Lily shuffled into the kitchen and mumbled something about needing a cup of coffee to stave off her headache. She moved over to the pot and poured herself some, started to add milk and several sugars when the aroma of frying bacon hit her nostrils.
Normally Lily loved bacon, it was one of her favorite foods. But all of a sudden she felt her stomach turn over and she went a pale shade of green and turned around and bolted from the room.
Severus turned and stared after her. "Zoey? You all right?" he called after her, recalling in the nick of time to use her fake name.
"She looked like she was going to puke, Severus," Arthur informed him helpfully.
Severus frowned. "I wonder why?"
"Maybe it's the grease from the bacon. My mum always said that smell made her want to throw up, especially when she was expecting." Art said knowingly.
Severus eyed him sharply. "And what would you know about a woman in that condition, Mr. Stephens?"
"Lots, sir. Since I had two younger sisters," the boy answered honestly. "I know my mum got sick as a dog when she was in the family way for months in the morning and when she smelled stuff like eggs, bacon, cauliflower and broccoli. So . . . is Zoey gonna have a kid?"
Severus knew then that he had two options. To tell the boy the truth or to Obliviate him. He opted for the former. Arthur deserved to know the truth. "Yes, Art. She is."
Arthur smiled. "Congratulations, sir. Do you want a boy or a girl?"
"I have no preference, so long as the baby and my wife are healthy," Severus answered.
"You mean you don't want a boy to be your real son?" Arthur asked, shocked.
Severus finished flipping the eggs onto a plate and draining the bacon before he said softly. "Art, what's that supposed to mean?"
"Well, you know. A son that can carry on your name and stuff. I know I can't ever be that to you so I just thought . . ."
Severus levitated the dishes to the table with a brief gesture before coming to sit down next to his ward. "You thought that my having a son would mean I would care for you less? That the baby would be more important to me than you are?"
"Well, wouldn't it?"
"Arthur, when I agreed to make you my ward, I pledged to treat you like a member of my family. Because that is what a good guardian is supposed to do. Now, I know you don't think of me like a father, but I would hope you think of me like an elder brother or even an uncle. My having a baby doesn't mean you become less important to me, Art. If anything, you matter more, because I can depend on you to help me with the baby, since you've done this before. This is all new to me and Zoey. Not only that, but being blood-related doesn't always mean that you love each other or even like each other. I can't stand my real father, I'd sooner see him six feet under than welcome him into my home, but I consider my stepfather, Professor Marsh, more of a father than Tobias Snape. You're just as much a part of my family now as any child of mine, Arthur Stephens, and Zoey and I love you just as much as we would if you were blood. So you see, it doesn't matter if I have a son or a daughter or even twins, you'll always be my family and don't ever let anyone tell you differently."
"Do you promise?" Arthur asked, very quietly.
"Upon my wand and my wizard's honor."
Arthur smiled, a smile that was part delight and part tremulous disbelief. "Thanks, Severus."
Severus reached out a hand and gently patted the other's shoulder. "Eat your breakfast before it gets cold."
Arthur began to spoon eggs into his mouth. Once he had swallowed he said, "What about Zoey?"
"I'll give her some tea and dry toast, I think she can keep that down." Severus began to eat as well, no sense in letting the food go to waste.
A few minutes later, Lily reappeared, looking apologetic, and accepted Severus' breakfast of tea and toast without a fuss.
Arthur looked at her curiously. "So . . .when's the baby due?"
Lily looked startled, but quickly regained her composure. "Sev told you then?"
"He didn't need to. My mum had two babies after me and I remember how she used to get sick every morning till she got like a bowling ball."
"Oh!" Lily put a hand to her mouth. Then she started laughing. "Oh, Art! Forgive me, but of course you'd know if anyone would." She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.
Then she said quietly, "Would you mind not mentioning my . . err . . .condition to any of your friends just yet? I want it to be a surprise."
"Oh. Okay. That's not a problem, Zoey, since my friends are all boys and we . . . uh . . . don't really talk about stuff like that. That's for girls." Arthur informed her gravely.
Now it was Lily's turn to blush. "Right. I knew that."
Severus smirked knowingly. "Of course you did, dear."
"Shut up, Sev," his wife ordered, mock-glaring at him.
After he had finished grading homework for the weekend and making up some new lesson plans for the fifth and sixth years for the upcoming week, Severus decided to take a break and go for a walk back up to the castle. He figured Dickon was finally awake and probably eager for some company. And Severus wanted to share the good news with his stepfather, as well as ask him for advice on the pregnancy so he didn't irritate or crowd Lily and yet helped her as much as possible.
It was late in the afternoon, and most of the students seemed to be enjoying the autumn sunshine down by the lake, or about the Quidditch pitch, or roaming about the streets of Hogsmeade. Severus nodded at one or two students when he passed them, a few of his House waved and said good afternoon, and he acknowledged them cordially. He was in a fine mood and the brisk walk made him feel good.
He reached Dickon's tower suite in about ten minutes and knocked gently upon the door.
But there was no answer.
Severus frowned, wondering if the astronomer had gone out for dinner at The Three Broomsticks. Or perhaps gone home for the weekend to see Eileen and Jess? "Dad? Are you there? It's Severus," he called, knocking again more firmly.
It was then that he heard a low meow that suddenly scaled up into a wail of alarm.
Severus stiffened, and suddenly he flashed back to another night, years before, when he had been cornered in the dark by three Slytherin Death Eaters and beaten almost to death, and a certain black temple cat had come to his rescue.
"Eclipse!" he called. "What's wrong?"
This time he heard the cat meowing on the other side of the door, and the cries were not that of a cat who was hungry or seeking attention. They were the cries of a cat in need. Or rather, one whose wizard was in need.
Severus felt his gut clench in alarm and he quickly charmed open the lock and jerked open the door. Eclipse wound himself about Snape's ankles, meowing in distress. Then the cat trotted away and Severus followed.
The suite was a mess, furniture was overturned, there was a hole blasted in the wall and broken glass and shredded parchment were everywhere. Severus' boots crunched upon the debris as he raced through the sitting room, calling, "Dad? Dad, are you all right?"
He found Dickon slumped half in and half out of the bedroom doorway. The astronomer's face was battered and bloody and there were scorch marks upon his blue robe. One of his telescopes was smashed next to him and there was a parchment sign draped over it that read, If You're Not With Us You're Against Us And Next Time We'll Smash More than Your Bloody Telescope!
"Bloody hell, Dad!" cried his son, as he knelt and gently tried to pick up the older man.
Dickon groaned and slowly opened his eyes. "Sev?"
"I'm here, Dad. What happened? Who did this?"
Dickon coughed and winced. "Don't . . . really know. . .I was . . .aligning my instruments . . .came up from behind . . .and hit me with a Stunning Hex. When I came to, they had tied me up . . .to one of my telescopes . . .and they asked me if I believed magic is might . . ."
Severus felt ice trickle down his spine. Magic is might was Voldemort's slogan. "That's Death Eater propaganda," he hissed, putting an arm about Dickon's shoulders and helping him to a sitting position. "Did you see who they were?"
"They . . . wore masks . . .like pillowcases . . .and their robes were . . .inside out . . . couldn't see the crests . . .but they were students . . .had to be . . ." Dickon coughed then.
Severus swore, then said, "Let's get you to the Hospital Wing, Dad. You look like you've been beaten the hell out of. We can talk more after Poppy sees to you."
"Eclipse . . ." Dickon motioned to the cat, who was curled in his lap.
"Did he scare them off?" Severus asked as he conjured a stretcher and then levitated the injured professor onto it.
"Yes . . .heard him Roar, but we were on the top of the tower . . . wind took the sound away . . .don't know if he marked any of them . . .managed to crawl down the steps . . ."
Severus turned and saw that the small door leading to the roof of the Astronomy Tower was open. He quickly closed and locked it.
"Sev . . .my wand . . ."
Severus quickly Summoned Dickon's wand and tucked it beside the injured man. "Relax, Dad."
He quickly lit a fire in the fireplace and managed to find Dickon's jar of Floo powder lying next to the hearth, some had been spilled, but there was plenty left to use. He tossed some down and said, "Hospital Wing, Hogwarts!"
Then he took the stretcher and himself through the green flames, furious and horrified at this unprecedented turn of events. He had known that things were getting bad at the school, having had to confiscate wands and assign detentions to many of his snakes for dueling and fighting with Gryffindors and other students, but he had never expected anyone to target the mild-mannered astronomer. While Dickon was known to not be a supporter of Voldemort, it was also known that he was Severus' stepfather and Severus had assumed that relationship would keep Dickon above the fray and safe from such cruelty.
Clearly he had been wrong.
"Poppy!" he called as they entered the infirmary. "It's an emergency! Professor Marsh has been assaulted."
Poppy came at a near run from her office. "Severus, what on earth?" Then she saw Dickon. "Great Merlin's ghost, Dickon! Who did this to you, the brutes?" Her eyes flashed.
"I . . . look worse than I am . . ." Dickon joked feebly.
"I'll be the judge of that, professor," Poppy said briskly, and began to run a diagnostic.
Severus stood beside the stretcher, holding Eclipse in his arms, feeling both utterly helpless and utterly furious at the same time. Merlin help the ones who had done this to Dickon. Severus was going to find them and teach them a lesson they would never forget . . .after they were expelled by Dumbledore for attacking a teacher without provocation. Unless Eileen found them first, Severus thought grimly, and then whoever had done this heinous deed would probably need a coffin.
Next: The extent of Dickon's injuries are revealed and Sev tells Dickon his news and calls Eileen. Lily also tells Petunia and Cindy. How will Eileen react to what happened?
I apologize for the lateness of this update, but I was on vacation, then I was very sick with a throat and ear infection. However I was quite happy to see so many people interested in when i would be updating this story. Thanks and please review if you wouldn't mind, so I know you are still reading!
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